BROOKSVILLE, Fla. -- World Woods Golf Club's location is remote, and its entrance is humble. But the golf, as the name implies, is nothing short of world class.
From Tampa International Airport, World Woods is a straight shot 60 miles north at the end of the Highway 589 toll road, a largely undeveloped stretch of land.
Upon arrival at World Woods, a small, white sign greets you, followed by a short road through pines to a modest single-story clubhouse.
It's only until you've spent a full day here and realize just how all-encompassing this place is that you realize World Woods is no ordinary golf club.
Conceived by Japanese owner Yukihisa Inoue, he wanted a winter playground for his members and to also provide a base for young Japanese golfers to improve their game in the U.S. Opened in 1993, the clubhouse is modest, built for less than $1 million, and isn't much more than a pro shop, grill and two small locker rooms.
But the golf itself is remarkable: starting with a 23-acre practice center comprised of a multi-sided driving range with spots to both warm up or receive private lessons or clinics far, far away. There's also multiple practice greens, including one large, chipping and putting green with huge humps and tiers. Additionally, there is a nine-hole short course comprised of seven par 3s and two par 4s, plus three practice holes and an iron range located between the first tees of each golf course.
Then, of course, there are the two championship Tom Fazio designs.
Pine Barrens and Rolling Oaks
Tom Fazio brought his artful eye to this large, untouched piece of wooded and sandy property and delivered two very different course designs. While both are of tournament standard with five sets of tees and more than 7,200 yards of length, what lies from tee-to-green is very different, respectively.
World Woods' Pine Barrens Course is unquestionably the more visually dramatic and sculpted of the two designs, complete with long carries over barren, sandy waste areas. This natural, raw appearance pays homage to the famous Pine Valley (which Fazio himself is a member). Pine Barrens' 12th hole even features alternate right and left greens that present entirely different challenges -- not unlike Pine Valley's ninth hole.
While numerous holes are sure to pop out on Pine Barrens, the one that has earned the most lore is the short, par-4 15th. The tee shot, about 300 yards to the green, requires a carry of about 200-250 yards depending on your tee box. Legend of a most fortuitous foursome a few years back has already been spawned from this tee: One morning, the first player to hit aced the hole, the second player eagled, the third birdied and the fourth completed the cycle with a par.
Right next door to Pine Barrens, World Woods' Rolling Oaks Course doesn't have the kind of theatrics of Pine Barrens. Showing off a more subdued side of Fazio. Holes gently dogleg around mossy oak trees, thanks to different soil content on this terrain compared to sandier Pine Barrens, which is mostly made up of skinnier-stumped pines. Bunkers, while large, are classically shaped, and greens feature more gradual roll than sharp tiers.
The hand of man isn't as apparent on Rolling Oaks, with the exception of holes such as the par-3 eighth that feature one of just a handful of the property's small ponds, accented with small waterfalls and running streams to make for one of the more garden-esque settings. The small pond flows into a collection area that makes up the largest water hazard on either course and one golfers must carry on the ninth tee: a long, tree-lined uphill par 4 that's every bit as tough as pretty.
World Woods Golf Club: The verdict
Fazio's designs tend to retain their value arguably better than any other modern architect -- and World Woods is one of the architect's most accessible, affordable courses in the entire portfolio, not to mention among his best works in the United States: Pine Barrens in particular ranks 55th on Golf Digest's "Top 100 Public Golf Courses."
With such remarkable practice facilities and two championship golf courses, World Woods is paradise for any golfer. Adding to the pure golf Valhalla vibe is that both courses, Pine Barrens and Rolling Oaks (as well as the executive course and practice holes), are walker-friendly, and junior golfers especially take full advantage.
Stay and play in Brooksville, Florida
World Woods' proximity to Tampa is close enough that you could easily make the experience a day trip. But to get the most out of the club's facilities, consider spending a night or two up in Brooksville in order to enjoy both golf courses as well as the extensive practice facilities. You could also play nearby Brooksville Country Club, which features a mix of traditional holes and remarkable ones set through a limestone quarry.
While a full resort was initially planned upon opening here, there is still no chatter of any concrete plans to break ground. Until then, World Woods has a collection of villas for both couples or groups located near the golf course that can be added on to golf packages. A Holiday Inn Express, located a couple miles south, is another no-frills but affordable and convenient option that offers free breakfast with rooms.